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If you’re fond of large hanging ornamentals for your interior, you should include staghorn fern in your list. In the past, this fern was an uncommon option for indoor setting because of its huge size. Through time, staghorn fern has gained the attention of plant enthusiasts because of their unique shape and minimum growing requirements.
Staghorn should be mounted in a sturdy substrate such as tree trunks and woods. They can be grown in baskets and rarely in pots. Since its cultivation, the knowledge on properly growing a staghorn has already been established.
|Scientific Name||Platycerium bifurcatum|
|AKA||Common staghorn fern, Elkhorn fern, staghorn fern, crown staghorn, Disc Stag’s Horn Fern|
|Similar to||Bird’s nest fern|
|Native to||Philippines, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia, Madagascar, Africa, and America|
|Shape||Looks like deer or elk antlers|
|Maximum size||About 3 feet or larger wide|
|Light requirements||Filtered light|
|Preferred temperature||60-80 F (16 to 27 C)|
|Soil or Medium||Slab of wood, bark, basket media for mature staghorn
Well-draining potting mix for young staghorn
|Fertilizer||Fertilize monthly with a water-soluble fertilizer with a 1:1:1 ratio|
|Propagation method||By spore, pups or division|
|Toxicity||Non-toxic to cats and dogs|
|Vulnerable to||Scale insects, mealybugs, Rhizoctonia sp.|
Staghorn Fern Overview
Staghorn is another kind of fern that belongs to the Polypodiaceae family. They are epiphytic in nature which originally thrives in the tropical rainforests of the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia, Madagascar, Africa, and America. They can be found wrapping large trunks of trees where they attach for stability.
Being a fern, they’re non-flowering. What makes this plant attractive is the shape of its leaves which resembles that of antlers and it has two distinct leaves known as basal and foliar. It can grow about more than 3 feet wide so you have to prepare a huge space where you can mount your staghorn.
Staghorn has medium water requirements. You have to wait for the medium to dry first before watering again. Don’t be fooled when you see the outer medium dry because most of the time, the inner portion is still moist.
To be sure, you can allow the staghorn to dry until it slightly wilts. From that, you can water the medium with ample water and the staghorn will go back to its normal condition. Beware of overwatering because it will surely lead to rotting of your staghorn.
Filtered light is the best light condition for staghorn fern. Remember that in their natural habitat, they live under canopies of large trees so it’s no doubt that they receive only partial light. To mimic such a condition, you have to provide shade for your staghorn so that only 600–2000 foot candles are allowed to pass.
Staghorn will do well with morning light so you can place it somewhere east. Avoid direct exposure to sunlight as this may lead to wilting and drying of the staghorn.
Maintaining high humidity is the major challenge when raising staghorn fern indoors. As a tropical plant, staghorn loves the extra moisture that it can get from the air. Remember they don’t have an extensive root system to draw water from the medium so they mostly rely on what they can get from the air.
It’s important then to regularly mist your staghorn fern. This may be a little time consuming especially if you’ll mist around a large fern mounted on your wall. But for sure, you can put in extra effort for the sake of your staghorn’s health.
Plant Food and Medium
Staghorn has the capacity to absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. You can fertilize them once a month with a water-soluble fertilizer with a 1:1:1 ratio. This should be diluted to half or quarter and pour the solution at the crown of the fern.
In choosing a medium for staghorn, use one that does not hold so much water. You can opt for a slab of wood or bark with moss as substrate for the mature ones. You can pot the young staghorn into a well-draining mix and allow them to grow first before you hang them.
Additional Care for Staghorn Fern for Indoors
Staghorn ferns have the tendency to grow widely. That’s why you have to do regular trimming off the excess leaves to maintain the foliage and its size. Prune the staghorn in the spring.
Avoid trimming when the fall season is near. Your staghorn will be needing its older leaves to protect itself from frosting.
You can repot a staghorn in many ways. You can use a basket, a piece of wood/bark, or a pot. This depends on how you want your staghorn to be kept inside your home.
If you’re using a wood or bark, make sure to use a sturdy one. It should support the weight of your staghorn. The same way should be employed with the wire hanging basket.
Use moist sphagnum or peat moss to serve as medium for your staghorn. Support the staghorn in place using wires. To keep the weight of the staghorn, do regular pruning.
To propagate a staghorn, you can use spores or divided rhizomes or pups to grow new plants. However, spores are rarely used because of slow growth and the huge amount of work you need to do. The most common way of propagation is through division.
Take a large and mature staghorn and divide the base to produce several pieces. Each piece must have a little root ball down its leaves and they’re ready to be potted individually. Use a well-draining potting mix and place it in a moist and warm environment until they’re established.
Another way to propagate is by cutting the pups from the mother plant and planting it separately. You’ll just have to wait for the pups to grow in the pot and you can transfer them eventually in wood or hanging baskets.
Pests & Diseases
Pests are not much of a problem in staghorn but they can sometimes be infected by scales and mealybugs. You can manually pick these organisms but they’re only a few. If chemical control is necessary, be sure to use non-oil solution such as insecticidal soap.
Staghorn is also vulnerable to Rhizoctonia sp. Thus fungi create black leaf spot on the leaves. Their spores can rapidly spread throughout the foliage if left untreated.
Remove the infected parts and treat the whole plant with mild fungicide. Always disinfect the tools you’ve used to prevent the spread of pathogens.
Staghorn is not included in APSCA’s (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) list of toxic plants. They’re safe for your cats and dogs because they don’t contain any harmful compound in any of its part.
Nevertheless, it’s always wise to take precautions when you handle any plant just like staghorn. Always wear your gloves whenever you need to touch them.
Typical Questions for Caring Staghorn Fern Plants
Why Are My Staghorn Fern Browning?
Browning leaves of staghorn can be a result of watering problems. Brown leaf tips that are crisp is a result of lack of water. Browning at the base of the frond which are mushy when touched indicates too much water in the plant.
Try adjusting your water application and see how the staghorn responds to it. Always consider the temperature, humidity and season when watering your staghorn.
Can I Place My Staghorn In A Pot?
Yes, staghorns can be potted but only the young ones. The newly divided pups or those produced through spores can be kept in pots because of their relative small sizes. Old staghorns have already grown wide so it’s best to keep them in hanging walls or baskets.
If you want to keep your staghorn in pot, make sure to prune regularly to keep its size down to minimum.
Can I Use Staghorn in Terrarium?
One way to make use of your staghorn is display it in terrarium. They would surely make a striking addition to your mini landscape. Staghorn will add volume and height to your terrarium display.
Don’t mix staghorn fern with cacti and other succulents in a container. They have different humidity requirements so they are not good companions.
Taking care of a huge fern inside your home may seem a wild idea but if you really love to make wild choices, then why not? If you are fond of ferns, be sure to add it in your collection. You’ll surely achieve that forest vibe even indoors.
With minimum care and maintenance requirements, staghorn is surely a big catch for plant owners. With practice and perseverance, you’ll surely make a successful journey with your staghorn.